Presentation on theme: "Reasonable Faith Adelaide Why I am not a Creationist Ian Saunders."— Presentation transcript:
Reasonable Faith Adelaide Why I am not a Creationist Ian Saunders
My aim Not to criticise others’ views Not to convert anyone to my views To show that there is a way of looking at creation and Christian beliefs that does not conflict with scientific method
Outline My background Science “-ists” Problems with Creationism What I DO believe So what?
BA (Maths) Oxford PhD Statistics (ANU) Worked for CSIRO and a number of universities as a statistician in scientific areas for about 40 years (Retired 2 weeks ago) My background
My background BA (Maths) Oxford PhD Statistics (ANU) Worked for CSIRO and a number of universities as a statistician in scientific areas for about 40 years (Retired 2 weeks ago) Became a Christian in 1973 Even before this, seeking how to reconcile perception with reality – Christianity made sense
Two world views? Science developed from dissatisfaction with a wholly philosophical view: everything can be deduced from first principles Instead, the results of observation were to be the guide to understanding Theories that did not match observation were to be discarded How does this fit with faith in an all-powerful God?
Scientific method Bacon (1620): “The introduction of [final] causes into physics has displaced … the investigation of physical causes … [in] Plato, …, Aristotle, Galen and many others” Faraday (1839): “Though I cannot honestly say that I wish to be found in error, I fervently hope [that this work will one day belong] to the by- gone parts of science.” Seeking for truth using observation and experiment and not relying on any untested authority is the basis of science “Love your colleagues’ results as your own”
Demise of a theory - Phlogiston In 1703 Georg Ernst Stahl proposed a substance phlogiston contained by all combustible materials At first phlogiston theory seemed to explain all the known chemical phenomena In 1771, Antoine Lavoisier found that the weight of calcined (oxidised) metal had increased Uptake of oxygen, not loss of phlogiston is the basis of combustion Phlogiston now belongs to the “by-gone parts of science”.
-ist? I am a scientist – or at least I was until 2 weeks ago But …I am not an evolutionist Nor am I a creationist In ‘Scientist’ “-ist” reflects an approach to problem solving which has proved successful ‘Evolutionists’ and ‘Creationists’ prejudge the issue of origins and interpret evidence in the light of their prejudice
Change in the “–ists” Most biological scientists now are also (uncritical) evolutionists – it is fashionable to include a section on evolutionary implications in basic biological papers There was a time when the balance was different
Edmund Halley, 1693 [water would seep through the earth’s crust, but …] no Man can doubt but the Wisdom of the Creator has provided for the Macrocosm in many more ways than I can either imagine or express An account of the Cause of the Change of the Variation of the Magnetical Needle, Philosophical Transactions 16, 573
Evolutionist “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” Dobzhansky, 1973 I disagree – the similarities between plant and animal regulatory elements make sense without assuming an evolutionary origin I disagree even more with uncritical attempts to apply the evolution mantra to non-biological systems – the development of the universe or the origin of life I am not an “evolutionist” – evolution is not necessarily the explanation of everything
What is creationism? My definition – the thing I am not: ◦ Belief in a literal (rather than spiritual) truth of Genesis 1-11 ◦ Requirement that scientific models must be constrained to fit with the particular literal interpretation
Creation and cosmology Bishop Ussher: the first day of creation began at nightfall preceding Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC (similar age to Bede, Kepler, Newton, …) ◦ Year from Bible and other historical records, date from Jewish calendar – autumnal equinox This is incompatible with modern astronomical observations ◦ Stars much further away than 6000 light years ◦ Parallax measures up to 500ly – background stars further away; “Standard candles” – millions of ly ◦ Red shift – galaxies up to 13 billion ly
Creationist explanations Light created with the distant objects to make them appear to be old ◦ Could be, but why? Universe beyond the solar system expanded rapidly on day 4 of creation, with time dilation allowing time for the rest of the universe to develop ◦ Not compatible with regularities of pulsars ◦ Why?
Geology William Smith in 1815 published a map showing the consistency in the sequence of underground strata across Great Britain Different strata had different fossils with the more primitive forms in the lower strata Clearly suggested development over time, though the ages could not be determined then Similar findings around the world
Geology Subsequently methods of determining dates were developed, notably radiometric methods Give consistent results – rocks many millions of years old ◦ Some creationists question the science – but the “big picture” is clear, and confirmed by multiple methods. ◦ Scientists do not accept results uncritically – any real discrepancies would lead to the methods following phlogiston
Conclusion The observations don’t fit the model of a young universe The simplest interpretation of an apparently old universe is that the universe is old
Biology Evolution? Organisms are (in part) controlled by the DNA sequence in their cells There are processes, including sexual reproduction, that allow these sequences to change and for advantageous changes to be accumulated Given enough time, and separation of population subgroups, there is nothing to stop evolution occurring
Timescales Part of the problem in seeing how evolution could lead to the diversity we see is the incomprehensible timescales involved
However, … There is no direct evidence that evolution has occurred Indirect evidence: ◦ Fossil record ◦ Divergent populations ◦ Existence of potential It is possible not to accept evolution, but there is no real alternative other than special creation
What about the Bible? Genesis 1-11 read to me as myth: stories carrying theological and philosophical truth, but not history Characters are “heroes” or “villains” not taking part in normal human activities – in contrast to Abram, Isaac and Jacob. Inconsistencies in details of accounts Not inconsistent with Jesus using the meaning of the stories in His teaching
Not alone … Clement (2 nd century AD): “time was born along with things that exist” Origen (3 rd century AD): ◦ “Now who is there, pray, possessed of understanding, that will regard the statement as appropriate, that the first day … existed without sun, … even without a sky” Augustine (4 th century AD): “[the Genesis day] was different from the ordinary day”
St Augustine “In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to that of Sacred Scripture”
What I DO believe The Bible is a special book, so we have to be careful not to bring to it our prejudices The world is God’s creation, and we can learn about Him by studying it – but without bringing to it our prejudices Science can tell us about what is (or was) but not about meaning or purpose Something of God’s purpose has been revealed in the history of the Jews and in the incarnation of God as Jesus
Problem with my position When and how did man acquire “God’s image”? Guess with no evidence: ◦ At some point God intervened in nature to link the physical and spiritual worlds, creating intelligent creatures, self-aware and with the ability to know Him and others as separate “selfs” – to choose good or evil
YEC or not – does it matter? If in 1973 I had had to accept creationism based on a literal interpretation of Gen 1-2, I probably would have rejected Christianity and sought some other way to God. Many people today have a similar reaction. It is possible to combine a strong faith in Jesus with an acceptance of scientific research. We should avoid placing stumbling blocks in the path to Jesus He is the Truth and one day we will see Him face to face